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Jacksonville Jaguars shock NFL world with Cam Robinson franchise tag

Jacksonville Jaguars shock NFL world with Cam Robinson franchise tag
Sep 19, 2019; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars offensive tackle Cam Robinson (74) is introduced during pregame against the Tennessee Titans at TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

The Jacksonville Jaguars’ new regime evidently believes it can get the most out of left tackle Cam Robinson, who was rewarded with the team’s 2021 franchise tag on Tuesday.

Robinson has failed to live up to the hype as a former second-round pick out of Alabama, but the Jaguars are essentially giving him a one-year prove-it deal to show he can meet that billing.

Cam Robinson remains with Jaguars on 2021 franchise tag

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport broke the news of Jacksonville’s costly decision, and added a quote from Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer:

There’s a reason Rapoport comes out with the word “surprise” at the beginning of his report. It is a surprise the Jaguars didn’t think pursuing an upgrade at such an important position was worthwhile.

With the most salary cap room in the NFL and the first overall pick in the 2021 draft, which will be used on a franchise quarterback, Jacksonville is overpaying for a lackluster blindside protector.

Just look at the raw player grades from Pro Football Focus to get an idea of just how consistently bad Robinson has been during his four-year career to date:

  • 2017: 52.4 PFF grade (72nd out of 79 qualifying tackles)
  • 2018: 63.4 PFF grade (only two games played)
  • 2019: 54.8 PFF grade (70th out of 81)
  • 2020: 61.7 PFF grade (62nd out of 79)

That’s not good. It’s not even average-level play. It’s near the bottom of the league on a regular basis.

When you add in the fact that Meyer’s predecessor, Doug Marrone, made his way up the coaching ladder due in large part to his prowess in coaching offensive linemen, it looks even worse that Robinson hasn’t fared better as a pro.

Last year’s Jaguars were 1-15, yet their interior offensive linemen held up quite well. Meanwhile, Robinson continued to struggle, and now the Jaguars will burn over $13.6 million in 2021 cap space to keep him, per Over the Cap.

Read More: Jaguars draft picks: Top 2021 selections, prospects to target after Trevor Lawrence

Is franchise tagging Cam Robinson actually smart?

NFL free agents, Justin Houston
Nov 17, 2019; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts defensive end Justin Houston (99) breaks away from Jacksonville Jaguars lineman Cam Robinson (74) in the second half at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

That last section presented a pretty scathing evaluation of Robinson, yet maybe Meyer and general manager Trent Baalke are on to something here.

For those Jaguars fans who are distressed over their first marquee move to franchise tag Robinson, think about the decision this way: He’s still only 25 years old. The new coaching staff obviously watched his tape and saw enough potential there to believe in him, despite what the PFF numbers say.

Jacksonville has all the means to execute a strong rebuild on the fly and keep its exceptional interior o-line intact. With all the struggles he’s endured in the NFL, there’s no question Robinson has a ton of talent and enviable physical tools to work with.

Boosting Robinson’s confidence with the franchise tag may be just what he needed. It’s a calculated risk by the Jaguars. They have plenty of money to burn, and in assessing the free-agent market, most of the top-tier options are likely to either want to play or an instant contender on a lucrative, short-term deal, or would cost even more than Robinson does.

By putting the youngster on the equivalent of a pay-as-you-go plan, Jacksonville can see up close what it has in Robinson. The alternative would either be a rookie in the draft, who’d be a complete unknown, or overpaying for a veteran.

The latter strategy is what most expected the Jaguars to do, especially with a franchise QB about to come through the door.

If Robinson were to flee to a superior organization before this new Jags leadership got to see him in action or had a crack at utilizing him properly, though, there’s a chance he could’ve flourished elsewhere. Then, Jacksonville would’ve regretted letting him walk and could’ve still had a big hole at one of the most important positions on the field.

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